The journey of discipleship (Mark 16:1-8)

The journey of discipleship (Mark 16:1-8)

On New Year’s Day, 1929, Georgia Tech played the University of California in the annual Rose Bowl football game. In that game a man named Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for California 30 yards away from the Georgia Tech’s end zone. Unfortunately he became confused and began running the wrong way. One of his teammates, Benny Lom, overtook and tackled him just before he scored for the opposing team.

This was during the first half. Everyone was wondering what Coach Nibbs Price would do with Roy Riegels in the second half. During half-time Riegels sat alone in a corner, wrapped a blanket around his shoulders, put his hands in his face and cried like a baby.

We’re not football players, but have you experienced failure on your journey of discipleship? If we’re honest, we fail our God more times than we can count on the journey of discipleship. We visited websites that we weren’t suppose to, gossiped about a brother or sister in Christ, yelled at the wife instead of loving her as Christ loves the church, and fall into unspeakable sins.

Is there hope for us when we fail in our journey of discipleship?

In Mark 16:1-8 it tells us that there is hope for those who have failed on their journey of discipleship. In this passage you will hear three points: faithfulness ending in failure, hope offered, and what are we to do in light of hope being offered.

Faithfulness ending in Failure

We have now reached the end of the gospel of Mark. All along we have seen that the gospel of Mark is about the journey of discipleship. The women demonstrated their faithfulness to him on this journey.

The women were faithful to Jesus from Galilee all the way to Jerusalem. They ministered to him while he was in Galilee (15:41); they followed him to the cross and saw the crucifixion (15:40). They saw where Joseph of Arimathea laid Jesus (15:47) and rose early in the morning to go there to anoint the body of Christ with species. They saw the empty tomb (16:5-6). They were faithful to follow Jesus, where as the crowd, his family and the religious leaders rejected him. His male disciples fled and denied Him. The women were the last hope that someone within Jesus’s crowd would continue as faithful followers. That was not to be the case, despite their faithfulness they failed to carry the message that was commissioned by the young man to “God and tell, His disciples, and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him just as He told you.’” Their failure is highlighted through the word ‘fled’ and their silence.

They “fled” in 16:8 because trembling and astonishment had gripped them. Instead of faithfully proclaiming the message, they fled in fear. Mark is trying to paint a picture of the women’s failure through the word “fled”. This word was used in back in 14:50 when the disciples fled and again with the young man (14:52), two examples of the failure through the use of the word “fled”.

They not only fled the scene, they also said nothing to anyone for they were afraid. Their silence jeopardized the second round of discipleship. Faithful to follow Jesus but failed to proclaim the message. Is that us? Faithful to attend seminary but fail to proclaim the message of the good news. Faithful to your husband and wife but fail to proclaim gospel. Faithful to ministry to the saints but fail to proclaim the message of the good news.

Hope Offered

We have seen the failure of the women at the most pivotal point in their journey of discipleship.  Now let’s move to hope offered. The young man commanded the three women, “Go, tell His disciples, and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him just as He told you.”

Please notice the words, “just as He told you”. Where did Jesus say that He was going to meet them in Galilee after his resurrection?

Jesus told them that he was going to meet them in Galilee after his resurrection back in Mark 14:28. In that context, Jesus spoke of his violent death and prophesied his disciples’ future failure and their future abandonment of him. Jesus knew his disciples would fail, but he offers them hope, that in failure there is always a new beginning. There is always the next round. After the resurrection, the scattered disciples would be regathered in Galilee.

The journey of discipleship started in Galilee. Jesus called his disciples when he was walking along the Sea of Galilee in Mark 1:15. He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of Men.” (Mark 1:17). On way to Jerusalem, one by one the disciples abandoned Jesus.

The disciples fled and left him at his betrayal and arrest. Peter denied Jesus three times. What about us? Have we fled and left him? Have we denied Jesus? When homework and projects are piling up, is Jesus the first to be let go? When work and play time consume us, is Jesus the first to be let go? The prayer life, the quite time, and Bible reading all go to waste side until “the busy moments” in our lives are over and then we will get back on the road with Jesus. Oh, how we in our own ways have fled and left Jesus.

Here in this statement, “He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him just as He told you” hope and restoration are offered to those who have failed, fled, and left Jesus in their journey of discipleship. The resurrected Christ will meet them where it all started. It is the promise of a new start, back to the point of origin, Galilee. It is a new beginning: a new iteration of the trip of discipleship. All can get back “on the way” to follow Jesus.

Don’t miss what the young man said, “But go, tell His disciples and Peter,” Is this not redundant? Is Peter not a disciple of Christ? Why did the young man say “go, tell his disciples and Peter that Jesus will go ahead of them to Galilee?”

The disciples fled and abandoned Jesus. Peter denied Jesus three times. In comparison Peter’s failure was worst than the other disciples. It is in this redundancy that we get this principle: Forgiveness and restoration are extended to those who have even experienced the worst of failure.

On this journey of discipleship for us there will be failures. There will be moments where we’ve ruined our God, our faith, and ourselves. In those moments hope and restoration are offered. Just as Jesus extended restoration and hope for the disciples in the phrase, “I will go ahead of you to Galilee” and the young man echoing Jesus’s statement does the same thing, then likewise, when we fail in our journey of discipleship, hope and restoration are offered. Hope and restoration are offered to the murders all the way down to those who tell “white lies.” The promise of a new start is extended to all. Jesus is waiting for you in Galilee, will you meet him there?

Application

We have seen faithfulness leading to failure, hope offered, now let’s move to the application. How do I meet Jesus in Galilee? Let me give you three steps:

  1. The first step is confession of sin. 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sin, God is faithful to forgive us of our sin and cleanse us of all our unrighteousness. So confess your sin to the Lord.
  2. The second step is once you confessed your sins, realized you have been forgiven. The blood of Christ has washed all your sins away. So often we hang onto the guilt and the pain of our sins. Realized that we have been forgiven and let them go. Don’t let it consume you.
  3. We left Roy Riegels at the corner with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, and his hands in his face weeping like a baby, with no hope, during half time.Three minutes before the start of the second half Coach Price looked at the team and said, “Men, the same team that played the first half will start the second.”Riegels never moved. The coach called him and again he never moved. Coach Price went over to where Riegels sat and said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me? The same team that played the first half will start the second.”Reigels said, “Coach, I can’t do it to save my life. I’ve ruined you. I’ve ruined the University of California. I’ve ruined myself. I couldn’t face that crowd in the stadium to save my life.”Then Coach Price reached out and put his hand on Riegels’ shoulder and said, “Roy, get up and go on back, the game is only half over.” Roy Reigels went back. Those Tech men will tell you they have never seen a man play football as Roy Riegels played that second half.For those who have experienced failure on their journey of discipleship, the resurrected Jesus offers hope and restoration.

    The game is only half over, confess and realize that our sins are forgiven, then get up and go back on the journey of discipleship.

May God bless you,
Dien

Abiding in the Commandments of Jesus

John 15:11

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. – John 15:9-11.

It seems to me that the word “commandment” earns a bad rap in many evangelical circles today. For some, it sounds too much like legalism. What we often forget is that obedience should not be equated with legalism. Neither does adherence to God’s laws and commandments mean that we are trying to earn our salvation. Recall that Jesus Himself amplified the Law in the Sermon on the Mount. Consider the following:

  • He has called us not to be angry (Matt 5:21-26).
  • He has called us not to lust (Matt 5:27-30).
  • He has called us not to lay up treasures on earth (Matt 6:19-24).

These are just a few of the things that Jesus has called us to in this life. Not that we earn salvation by doing these things; rather, having saved us by grace, Jesus invites us to begin participating in the new life that we have in Him. He doesn’t just save us and leave us to figure out the rest of our lives on our own. He calls us to a new life – a better way of living, here and now.

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my father’s commandments and abide in his love. 

John says that as we keep the commandments of Christ, we abide in Him and His love. In the church today, there is much talk about having the love of Christ. There is comparatively little talk about obedience to Him. As evidence of that, consider the high rate of divorce and the increase of premarital sex in the evangelical church at large (see here). We say we love Jesus; there is hardly a contemporary worship song that doesn’t have the words “love” and “Jesus” in the same line. And yet, after Sunday service, we return to our own way of doing things, deliberately engaging in ways of life that Jesus forbids.

Perhaps one reason this happens is that we impose our own notions of love against Jesus’ command to Love. We think that love means that God affirms us no matter how we behave. God is there for our sake. True obedience, well, that’s for those who are super-super spiritual. For us regular folk, as long as we try, as long as we “love” Jesus (whatever that means), we’re okay.

The Bible is clear that we cannot love and follow Jesus on our own terms. Recall that Jesus believed that the commands to love God and love others “sums up” all the Law and the Prophets. This “summing up” means that the command to Love is grounded in God’s Law. Thus, true love and discipleship occur only within the limits of God’s commandments. Anything less than that is a distortion of what God has intended for our good. If we are to be followers of Jesus, we must follow Him, not as we wish but as He leads, according to His Lordship.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Let’s not be discouraged by our high calling. Jesus promises that in abiding in his commandments, we also abide in his love. When we keep his commandments and abide in his love, His joy dwells in our hearts. If we are reluctant to be obedient, it’s often because we forget that God’s commandments are for our good. His way is better. When we follow Jesus rather than ourselves, our joy is made full and perfected. Let us, then, set aside our own ways and cast ourselves into the way of Jesus.

Our Avengers: humanity and heroism

The Avengers

This post is meant to be a post on the Avengers.  So if you have not seen the Avengers, go watch it!  It’s really good.  There may be spoilers so I am warning you ahead of time that you should watch it before reading this post.  I found that Mike Cosper’s article on the movie to be extremely helpful on the Gospel Coalition website, and I am just going to add some brief thoughts on the Avengers to complement your movie watching experience.

The question that I think about is what makes the Avengers so appealing and awesome?  It’s the heroes, their stories and what they accomplish.

In his article, Cosper points out that we love the story not just for the awesome graphics and the amazing effects, but also how Joss Whedon draws the characters together through their very human personalities;  I think this was the part where all the characters got to say funny things and interact well together.  Yet what is revealed is that the “superpowers” are an outward covering or veneer to the world that covers each character’s own flaws and struggles.  “The Black Widow’s cold exterior belies an obsessed interior world, keeping tabs on her debts and trying to reconcile with her past. Tony Stark’s ego and fearlessness mask his guilt. Captain America is a man displaced, plagued with the loss of his entire world…At one point in the movie, Stark nags Bruce Banner about his secret, how he works to keep the monster under control, and Banner eventually admits, ‘I’m always angry.’ It turns out The Hulk always lurks, a powerful reminder of powerlessness inside the controlled mind of the scientist.”  Loki, the enemy, seeks to exploit these weaknesses and through subtle manipulations create infighting that would tear up the group.    Yet, it is in their weakness that strength is found… “from the mustard seed becomes the mighty tree.”   The heroes in their midst of their weakness find a strength that helps them to overcome the influence of Loki and the physical attack on New York City by the Chitauri, an alien race seeking to conquer Earth.

Cosper finally ties this to how in our understanding of heroes… we know how weakness comes before strength and how the simple shepherd becomes the king. Jesus Christ came in the most humble ways and died in the most humiliating and “weak & foolish” ways.  Coulson, a simple, humble character (who appears in almost all the Marvel movies before)  sacrifices his life standing up to/fighting against Loki, and the spilling of his blood (on the Capt. America cards) becomes the inspiration that brings the Avengers together and gives them a reason to fight against this evil.   Like this blood spilt idea, but even better, Jesus’ death became the most powerful expression of God’s power and “strength”; it becomes our catalyst and opportunity to be redeemed.  It is the most loving gracious act of love and sacrifice.  This is the hero story that is the most unlikely yet the most powerful, and as Cosper ends he shares this thought:

“a satisfying hero story will always involve a great, gospel-like reversal, where the odds seem insurmountable and the heroes seem overcome. But the tide turns, the heroes rebound, and evil retreats a universe away. Somehow, that story never gets old.”

I think in the whirlwind of life and the weightiness of trying to meet the demand of our idols and standards of success that our world demands from each of us, we all earnestly enjoy and love the hero story where there is redemption and hope… that the way things are, are not the way things are supposed to be.  The sin of our lives, and Satan and his minions, and the other idols of this world desire to draw us into the hopelessness of our lives and into eternal separation from God, yet the great reversal manifests itself in one thing… Jesus Christ… an act of grace and love that stems not from our own efforts but upon God’s heroic action of saving us.

As I reflect on this story, it is easy to be caught up in men’s self-made power and skills, and to be in awe of the superpowers and the Hulk smash… yet these thoughts keep leading me to think about the heroes in our lives.  Who are the heroes in your life?  Who is the hero of your life?  Is it Jesus Christ?  In considering the wonders of what God has done, I realized He has assembled His own group of heroes to serve this earth… in many ways look to the brothers and sisters in Christ around you and their lives.  Many have come to see their very human flaws and yet experienced the wonderful power and hope in Christ through the Spirit that leads them to many heroic events… they love God so much it leads them to serve you and me… to love you and me.

Consider those that serve you in ways that you often overlook.  You know what I’m talking about… all the dirty/menial/costly/annoying/worst/sweat inducing things that we do not want to do; we’ll even pretend not to notice them so we won’t feel guilty for not helping out. Look to those that are serving you the food and setting up a table on Sunday worship.  Look to those heroes that are often picking up trash and cleaning up our mess on Sundays. Look to those that are behind the scenes getting up early to set up worship equipment and are breaking things down at the end of service when everyone else is having a great time.  Consider those that are always cleaning and serving others and are making sure that our studies go smoothly.  Think about those that devote their lives to reaching co-workers and loving those around them.  Consider those that are caring for your children so that you may be able to enjoy your worship time and they have to miss the worship. Think about the missionaries that have given up their own personal comforts to minister to those in random corners of the world. Consider those that sit with you through seasons of difficulty, loneliness, heartbreak, job loss, and any other hardship… being a shoulder to lean on, an intercessor praying/pleading to God on your behalf.  Consider those that have given their lives to proclaim the Gospel whether in service or in their deaths.  Consider those that lay their lives down for others counting others greater than themselves in reflection of the example of their Savior (Phil. 2:1-11).  The list keeps going on.

These are often my heroes, and you know what, their lives excite me.  They get it and they are so amazing because they are living not in their own amazingness but in their humility and weakness.  They lift up others.  They are the ones that have set aside their lives to serve and help others.  They are more powerful in Christ than anything this world has to offer.  They reflect the power of the Infinite God in their finite lives of service.  These are the Avengers of our world.  May you love and appreciate these people and be encouraged by their example of following the one and only true Avenger.  Perhaps one day, you may be a part of the Avengers as well.

If you’ve got nothing good to say…

TemporaryVisitors: Suggested Reading

I was once told that if you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all. It’s my turn to write this week, and I’ve got nothing. Helicon and I have been working on a pair of blog posts that we plan to release back to back, but those still need some careful review before they’re ready to be shared.

Jesus, while addressing the Pharisees in Matthew 12:36 said, “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.” Let’s take that as a reminder to think before we speak (in front of others) or write (on blogs/Facebook/Twitter/etc). So rather than writing for the sake of posting something, I thought I’d share a few posts from other blogs that I have marked as “Read it Later“.

First a few side-comments on how I get the content that I read on daily basis. My blog-browsing/aggregating tools of choice are:

GoogleReaderGoogleReader (http://reader.google.com)- this is where I subscribe to the different blogs that I follow. Simply log in to GoogleReader, click the”SUBSCRIBE” button, and then enter the URL for the RSS feed, which should be available on just every blog nowadays. You’ve now built your library of stuff which will be updated in realtime as new content is made available from the blogs you’ve chosen to subscribe to. I choose to do this step on my laptop since it’s simpler and quicker.

FlipboardFilpboard (http://www.flipboard.com) – this is by far the #1 app that I use on my iPad/iPhone on a daily basis. Flipboard does an amazing job at displaying your library of stuff in a clean way that is both aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate (it feels like a magazine, you’ve got to try it out). After creating an account on Flipboard, you can add different sources that will feed your Flipboard in realtime. Aside from the different social networking feeds and other pre-built topic-based feeds you can add as a source, you can also choose GoogleReader. Once you do that, you’ve now got your library stuff in a browsable format for easy reading.

InstapaperInstapaper (http://www.instapaper.com) – this step is optional, but for those who go through a lot of content and don’t always have the time to read everything in one sitting, Instapaper comes to the rescue. Granted you can “star” things while navigating through Flipboard, Instapaper offers the added benefit of stripping out all the “extra stuff”. This leaves you with only the text of the article that is neatly organized in the Instapaper app. To get this set up, go into the settings of Flipboard and add your Instapaper account as the tool you want to use for “Read it Later”. You’re now ready to rock and roll.

My daily routine includes flipping through the latest blog posts on Flipboard, reading a few things as I have time, and then choosing “Read it Later” for those I want to read later, or those I don’t want to forget. Over time, I ended up with a library of things I’ve found to be encouraging and thought provoking, all neatly organized and tagged for future searching. Each of these tools also has a lot of different sharing/syncing options, but what I’ve described should hopefully get your feet wet enough to explore further on your own.

It’s important to remember that these are all secondary to the Bible. We are to be wise and discerning in what we read and what we do with what we read. Just because so-and-so said it on their blog doesn’t mean that it this becomes the foundation for our understanding of the Bible. The author of Hebrews reminds us that it is the Word of God that “is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Lastly, think twice before you hit the “Share” or “Like” button. In a world that is more connected than ever, what we like and share can often send a message that we never intended.

With that in mind, here are  few posts that I’ve moved into the “save for later” category. Hopefully there’s a little something in there for everyone. Enjoy.

These first two have been extremely convicting in how I approach and study the Word.

Many of my friends are starting families. This one goes out to all the moms out there.

It is hard to believe I am approaching my 6th year at the company I’m currently working at. For those of us in the working world, or those about to join the working world, I’ve found these to be helpful. If 12 ways to glorify God at work is too much for you, don’t worry there’s another post that takes a stab at looking at it in 5 ways.

I came to know Christ as my savior in my high school years, yet my grasp of the foundational elements of my faith were weak at best. Having served in youth ministry over the recent years, these posts sum up how we should raise and teach the next generation.

The college years were formative in many ways for me. This is something I wish I had read before going to college. It’s worth a read whether are going to college soon, already have started college, or recently graduated from college.

And…for the Apple fan-boy in all of us, a thought provoking article on the image of God.

God’s will

TemporaryVisitors - Guest Post

Whenever there’s a 5th Sunday in a month, we take a break from the regular rotation between myselfHeliconTim, and Dien to feature a guest writer. Since there were 5 Sundays in April, this week’s post comes to you from my good friend and younger* brother, Nathan Yee.

* He does not allow me to call him “little” for obvious reasons if you’ve ever seen us standing next to each other. 


Lately I have been contemplating what it means to ‘be in God’s Will’.  We always speak about and pray that we want the ‘Will of God’ to be expressed in our life and that we would co-labor in it.  The question I posed to myself in studying this was:

Am I not seeing an opportunity that is right in front of me which God has placed in my life, that I ought to be pouring into? 

I am reminded of Paul’s missionary work and how he had a genuine desire to go and share the Gospel to the Romans. Obviously Paul didn’t just wait and not do anything and wait for God to open a door for him to get to Rome so he could fulfill his desire.  If so, the book of Acts would have looked much differently, but on the contrary what we do see is Paul actively contending for the faith everywhere God sent him.  Even though Paul didn’t immediately get to Rome in the beginning of his missionary journey, he poured everything he had into what was before him. Acts 14:20 tells of Paul being stoned in Lystra and dragged out of the city presumed dead by the locals, but immediately re-enters the city which tried to kill him.  We do not experience that type of persecution today, but how often do we bow out of opportunities to share the love of God when confronted with the slightest opposition? Paul could of said at that point, ‘I’ve had it with Lystra, my desire is to be in Rome and that is where I’m going.’ But Paul didn’t allow life’s circumstances and his own genuine desires to get in the way of doing what God had for him and followed faithfully.

We can have our desires for our life but the Lord will take us ultimately where He sees fit. Even when our desires are praiseworthy and for the God’s glory, it may not be what God has in store for us at the moment.  We ought not to let circumstances dictate where we believe God is leading us.  God has not promised us comfort and ease in following Him but the contrary ‘Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,’ 2 Timothy 3:12.  Easily we fall into a trap today where the most comfortable and logical choice is sought after as God’s plan for us.  We pour everything we have into obtaining this dream to where we have lost sight of what it says in Matthew 22:37 ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’.  Lets be reminded that we are to love God for who He is rather than the blessings He gives.

I am reminded of the lyrics to ‘Give Us Clean Hands’ by Chris Tomlin, “Oh God let us be a generation that seeks, who seeks Your face, oh God of Jacob”.  We have an opportunity to have intimate fellowship with the one and true living God for all the days of our lives, let us not consume ourselves with the periphery.

For the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

Shalom,
-Nathan